In early August, my family all converged on Cloud Nine Farm outside of Asheville, for a reunion. My wife's grandfather retired there in the late 60s, and it has since been maintained by Janet Peterson, his daughter, as a working farm and vacation rental. We love going there, and since we moved to Charleston, now it's only about 4 hours away. I was able to do some painting while there, usually during my youngest son's nap time. All these are oil and graphite on paper, which I've been using all summer. I decided to focus on things close at hand, rather than distant views of the mountains...a continuation of sorts of the flower paintings I did earlier in the summer. These were all done in one shot, usually about 2-3 hours. I've included a few details below the full size image:
I've been working on this new night painting, on and off, since the spring. With the interiors, I'm able to work on a painting for a more sustained amount of time, due to the fact that the light and the forms don't change as much. Painting en plein air, you're mostly at the mercy of the weather and environment, for better or worse. Here, I'm able to take my time; pull out the painting a couple times a week and work at a more leisurely pace. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
My initial impulse and idea for the painting came after seeing the sun set through the trees in our backyard. Everyday, as the days move into the summer months, the light as it streams through our back porch and windows, is so beautiful and golden, it just calls out to be painted. Unfortunately, that time from 5-8pm is the worst time for me to set up in our living room to paint, so I altered it to a night painting with different kinds of artificial light.
pencil, 9" x 11"
I started with this initial sketch in pencil, to figure out the main divisions of the composition. I wanted to get not only the porch, but the long hallway that leads back to my studio. I wanted this painting to contain a 'near' space, and a 'far' space. I was also intrigued by the idea of incorporating different light sources. The porch side having the darkness of night outside, with a soft glow overhead, and the deep space of my studio, far away, but brightly lit. I also put in the bright blue glow of the TV in between the 2 spaces, as an accent and counterpoint to all the orange wood tones. I just love painting all the patterns that our house has (courtesy of my wife), and the wood molding and floor create a warm, glowing atmosphere. Also, about half way through the painting, I realized that I could turn on the string lights outside the porch to create yet another light source and pattern. The dots of small lights lead you around the painting in arcs towards the center of the composition.
One thing that doesn't come out in looking at art online is that the surface of the paint is not apparent. While I'm working, I'm continually conscious of how the paint is sitting on the surface...is it thin? thick? was this mark part of the underpainting? How does my eye move over the surface of the picture plane? Are there 'slips' that occur where my eye moves around the image. There's the image, the motif, and then there is the paint application. After each painting session, I tried to take a picture of each 'stage' of the painting. Please forgive the uneven quality of the photos (some were taken at night under artificial light, some during the day, and some with different cameras). Here is the progression of the painting: